Save Speedwell Completes Its Mission; Popular Lake Opening in Spring

By on September 2, 2015

The spillway at Speedwell Forge Lake, as of Aug. 30. Things are shaping up for spring!

What does it mean when a group called Save Speedwell disbands?

It’s all good.

“It means that our mission is accomplished,” says Andrea Becker, president, who organized the non-profit Save Speedwell nearly four years ago.

A Reading area resident, Becker was dismayed when she discovered that her favorite lake was being drained and closed. That happened after the area was hit with two storms in the fall of 2011, Hurricane Irene followed by Tropical Storm Lee.

Flooding from Lee led to an official determination that the dam at Speedwell Forge Lake was unstable. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission was concerned that the 106-acre man-made lake would break through and flood residents downstream along Hammer Creek.

So they drained the lake until the dam could be repaired. Unfortunately, those repairs had a hefty price tag — $6.4 million. It looked like Speedwell Forge Lake would be gone for a long time. Maybe it would never come back.

Becker wasn’t about to let that happen. To her delight, she found that there were lots of other people who felt just like she did. Before long, Save Speedwell was organized with the mission to do just that — save the lake.

“Over the years, we had fundraisers and sold T-shirts and did whatever we could,” says Becker, adding that they raised $20,000 for the cause.

Of course, that was far less than they needed. What they did do is to raise awareness and lead the efforts to secure government funding for the project. When the organization netted grant money for $6.4 million, it looked like Save Speedwell was getting closer to its goal to bring back the popular fishing, boating and recreational lake.

This past week, construction of the new dam and spillway was nearing completion. Recent rains filled it up temporarily, and the lake had to be drained. In the coming months, the lake will be allowed to fill by rain, then drained again to make sure everything is working properly. By spring of 2016, people should be able to take their canoes and kayaks to the lake for some catch-and-release fishing.

“We can’t wait,” says Becker. “We started Save Speedwell to bring back the lake we love. We are all so thankful to have gotten the support needed from residents and legislators to bring us to this point. We look forward to seeing all our friends and neighbors at the lake next year!”

As Becker points out, the group’s mission was to support the lake, and the remaining funds have been split between the Lititz Sportsmen Association and the Lancaster County Bassmasters. These non-profit organizations are currently working on rebuilding the pavilion at the lake and installing fish habitats in preparation for the restocking efforts to occur next year.

“Save Speedwell wishes to thank all of its supporters and most importantly the local legislators who worked diligently to ensure the lake’s revival,” says Becker.

She admits that it’s a bittersweet moment. Sweet, because they achieved their goal, and bitter, because the members of Save Speedwell will miss their meetings and working together as a team.

“I think we will all have to go out for coffee or drinks from time to time. We have bonded over this fight to save Speedwell. I know I’ll miss it. But not as much as I missed having the lake,” says Becker. “On the day the lake reopens, I think we will all be there with champagne.”

The officers of Save Speedwell include president Andrea Becker, vice president Kevin Oettel, treasurer Dave Olson, and secretary Milt Lauch. Directors are government liaison Lauch, webmaster David Fair, Jay Eichelberger, Michele Gibbel, Judy Lauch, Debbie Mosimann, and April Olson.

When the Lauch family bought their house on Lake View Drive, it was lakefront property, with a view of the water and trees on the other side. They had a flat-bottomed jon boat, a canoe and a couple of kayaks. When the lake was drained, there was no water and no fishing.

“I loved taking walks along the lake. It was distressing when there was no more lake,” says Milt.

At first it was a muddy hole, then it turned into a swamp with Hammer Creek flowing through it. Trees started to grow, turning it into a wetlands forest.

“We had to get the lake back,” he said.

Debbie Mosimann, owner of the Swiss Woods Bed & Breakfast, and Milt Lauch, Save Speedwell secretary, eagerly await the return of their favorite lake.

Debbie Mosimann, owner of the Swiss Woods Bed & Breakfast, and Milt Lauch, Save Speedwell secretary, eagerly await the return of their favorite lake.

Lauch took on the role of government liaison, working to keep in touch with government officials and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which owns and operates the lake. He is in constant touch with the commission and he keeps an eye out as work progresses on the dam. The lake was dredged last year to make it deeper. Eventually when it is refilled, it should be healthier, with a better flow of water into the Hammer Creek, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay system.

“It’s going to be a little odd, because the trees that grew up in the lake bed will still be there,” says Lauch. “When you’re in a canoe or kayak, you will have to navigate around them. Kind of like an obstacle course.”

Lauch and his wife did notice that without the lake and its fish, the ecosystem has changed a bit. There are tons of frogs and toads, that were once supper for the fish. Now they are everywhere, including taking a dip in their pool.

Lauch is also looking forward to fishing. Lancaster County Bassmasters and the Lititz Sportsmen’s Association will be working on restoring the fish habitat in the lake with wooden pyramids, rock piles, half-buried tractor tires and groups of stake trees. These are structures that provide places for algae to bloom to feed small fish. They also provide protective shelter for minnows, sunfish and other fish, which are preyed upon by the bigger game fish, such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and channel catfish.

Ben Page, a lake section manager with the Fish and Boat Commission, has been busy mapping out a network of rubble humps, spider humps, rock star mounds and catfish spawning boxes that will encourage the fish populations when they are reintroduced to the lake. Page said the Fish and Boat Commission likely would stock minnows and other forage fish shortly after the lake is filled, and then stock game fish about two years later.

Dick Fridinger and Ken Hess of the Lititz Sportsmen are busy working on restoring some of these structures in the lake with volunteers from the organization. At first the lake should be stocked with a mix of fish like bass, sunfish and perch. The Sportsman’s Association has a trout hatchery and should be restocking the lake gradually.

According to the Bassmaster’s Club, it will take at least five years before there will be good-sized bass back in the lake. But it will be worth it.

For Debbie Mosimann of nearby Swiss Woods Bed & Breakfast, having Speedwell Forge Lake back will be a godsend for her country inn. The Swiss Woods website used to describe the inn as overlooking the lake and she had canoes for her guests to enjoy when they visited. Soon visitors will be able to walk the Conestoga Trail and see the lake through the trees.

“I had to take references to the lake off the website and now I can put it back,” says Mosimann. “It will be wonderful to have the lake again.”

The Save Speedwell Facebook page and savespeedwell.org website will remain live for an undetermined time period under the name Friends of Speedwell, so that area residents can continue to share information leading up to the lake’s opening next year.

Laura Knowles is a freelance news reporter and regular contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com.

One Comment

  1. Pat Stauffer

    September 3, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    I am so happy the lake will be back soon!! I hope they publish and advertise the reopening!! I want to be there!!!

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